Nutrition for Cold Weather Sports

As a dietitian with Alberta Sport Development Center, I get to work with a variety of young athletes. A special small component of these athletes are the ones that train and compete in cold weather sports such as alpine and freestyle skiing or snowboarding. Many of our athletes also continue to train outside such as running and cycling even in the snow and cold. There are unique food and fluid challenges athletes face when they train and compete in the sub zero temperatures outside. These challenges include

  • An increase risk of hypothermia with the cold temperatures. Athletes may feel a reduced desire to eat and drink.
  • As an athlete sweats and then cools down after waiting for the next event or training run they can start shivering. Shivering uses up a lot of energy and can quickly tire an athlete, affecting their performance.
  • Access to food and fluids may not be easily available for cold weather athletes as they are often outside in the country or on a ski hill. They may also find it difficult to eat and drink, by having to undress or take off gloves. I also find that it can be hard to convince athletes to take a break to eat and drink because in Southern Alberta we don’t always have a lot of snow so athletes want to take advantage of all the time they can get on the hill!

So when it comes supporting winter sport athletes to drink and eat enough to support their activity we have to come up with some different strategies. It is really important for athletes to focus on drinking adequate fluids prior to their training and competition so that they start off well hydrated. Two to three hours before hitting the slope they should aim to have two to three cups of fluid. When they are at the ski hill they can carry a water bottle in a backpack which can be left at the top or the bottom of the hill so they can have a drink before or after a run. I have learned that while that seems like a very practical strategy, that in reality sometimes their water freezes when they leave it in their backpack. So other strategies that can help prevent their fluids from freezing include:

  • wrapping their water bottle up in extra clothing they carry in their backpack
  • keeping their bottle of the ground and snow
  • using an insulated container to keep water cool but not frozen
  • packing warm beverages or soups in insulated containers to help take away the chill of training outside as well as hydrate.

Cold weather can suppress an athlete’s appetite so they don’t feel like eating. Packing small carbohydrate based snacks that are easy to eat with gloves are key. Foods that can be stuffed into jacket pockets include dried fruit, trail mix and granola bars. Snacks that can be packed in a backpack include peanut butter and jam sandwiches, wraps with lean meat, crackers and cheese, chocolate milk (hot or cold) or a juice box. Yogurt tubes are also convenient because even if they freeze they still taste great and are easy to eat!

With a little planning athletes who train and compete in cold weather sports can ensure they are meeting their food and fluid needs to perform at their best.

Kimberlee Brooks, RD, MSc, is a sport dietitian with the Alberta Sport Development Centre and can be reached at asdc@mhc.ab.ca

Success is a way of life

Happy New Year from the Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College.

A New Year brings about feelings of anticipation and hope. It is usually a time when people set goals for themselves and look to make changes for the positive. This applies to athletes as well. The New Year is a time when athletes formulate goals for the next calendar year.

One of the most common criticisms of New Year goals is that they only last for a month or so. For the most part, this is true. Fitness facilities see their highest membership sign-ups in the early part of January; although, statistics show that less than half of the individuals who make New Year fitness resolutions maintain their goal six months later.

Where am I going with this?

Making New Year resolutions is not the answer to fitness or athletic success. Success is a way of life. No athlete has success when they make a goal and renege on it a couple of months later. Athletic success can be equated to breathing. An athlete needs to want to succeed as much as they want to breathe. No one makes a goal to breathe and then quits six months later.

We see this way of thinking with a lot of our Athlete Enhancement Program athletes. We have early morning training sessions every Monday and Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. The athletes who want to be better show up on a consistent basis. They don’t start coming for a few weeks in January and then taper off as time goes on; they consistently show up to the training sessions throughout the course of the year.

We have a great group of hockey players in our program this year. There are eight athletes from the South East athletic Club (SEAC) AAA teams in our program this year. They show up consistently to our training sessions, and their success as individuals is shining through. When we did our fitness testing before Christmas, it was the SEAC athletes that tested the best. You can see it in their eyes that they want to get better.

Derek Jeter, the famous New York Yankees shortstop once said, “I wouldn’t call myself great. The thing that I prided myself on in my career was consistency.”

Don’t make New Year resolutions. Make a choice this New Year to create a lifestyle of consistency.

Cory Coehoorn is the coordinator of the Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College. He would love to chat with you and answer any questions that you may have regarding their programs and services. He can be reached via email at ccoehoorn@mhc.ab.ca or via phone at 403-504-3547.

Cooking Skills for the Busy Athlete

At Alberta Sport Development Center (ASDC), we help emerging athletes reach the next level of competition. Nutrition is a key element as part of an athletes training and competition plan. My role as the ASDC Dietitian is to support athletes to meet their nutrition goals. This includes educating our young athletes, parents, and coaches about sports nutrition and how nutrition can improve their athletic performance. But it also includes developing food skills such as menu planning, reading food labels, grocery shopping and learning how to cook. These practical skills are important for young athletes to support their training but also a life skill for as they get older.

Young athletes often struggle with good nutrition practices as they face many challenges with the type of schedules they maintain. Our athletes often have busy training schedules and will be up early before school to train or will train after school and into the evening. This can make it difficult to eat regular meals at home and leaves little time for meal preparation for in between school and events. Athletes often travel away from home for competitions and may have reduced access to good food choices on the road or at the venues where they compete. So part of our goal at ASDC is to work with athletes to provide practical strategies and develop food skills to help them build on good nutrition practices that they can take with them into their adult years.

The cooking sessions I do with the athletes in our athlete enhancement program is always a favorite. We focus on some basic meal planning and the athletes learn how to make some quick snacks and meals that they can eat at home or on the go. They always enjoy making snacks such as cereal trail mix, yogurt parfaits, and smoothies. They also learn that they can make their own quick meals such as pasta salads and skillets that can be packed up to eat on the go or to serve to their parents as a thank you for driving them around everywhere! Not everything turns out perfect but learning from their mistakes is part of skill development (like reading the recipe closely when it says one quarter of a teaspoon of chili peppers and not one quarter cup)! Cooking skills such as reading a recipe, washing dishes, cutting and sautéing vegetables, measuring liquids and dry ingredients and browning meats are just a few of the skills we focus on.

We will also tour a grocery store to practice other food skills such as how to read food labels, grocery shop and budget for meals. Through hands on discussion and some competitive activities (they are athletes after all) athletes build their confidence and knowledge about making informed healthy food choices. It is a lot of fun and they learn practical food skills that they will rely on as they get older as well. To learn more about our Athlete Enhancement Program with ASDC check out our website at www.mhc.ab.ca/Services/HealthandWellness/ASDC

Kimberlee Brooks, RD, MSc, is a sport dietitian with the Alberta Sport Development Centre and can be reached at asdc@m hc.ab.ca

Science-Based Training

I live in a world of science; I am constantly surrounded by scientific literature and conversation. To be honest with you… I absolutely love it!

Not only am I the coordinator of the Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College, I am also a Science & Health faculty member at Medicine Hat College, and because I am completely crazy, I am also pursuing a PhD at the University of Victoria. So it would make sense that I would expect to see science based approaches when it comes to the areas of athlete development.

The Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College has some of the most qualified, scientifically inclined staff in the business. Everyone who is staffed by our centre has a scientific approach to their craft.

This is not the case in all fields of athletic development! Many “qualified” fitness professionals are not using a scientific approach when it comes to training athletes. I actually was at one point in time employed as a NCAA division I university assistant strength & conditioning coach, and you would not believe some of the practices that occur in athlete development at that level. The head strength and conditioning coach at this particular institution had no other credential other than that he played in the National Football League. I was told by this particular individual to not question how they ran their training sessions but to simply “be there” and yell as much as I could. When training the football team, we would all congregate in a room outside of the weight room and jump and yell at the top of our lungs. Once we were adequately “pumped up,” we would sprint into the weight room and orchestrate 1 hour of pure chaos. Trust me, there was no science or forethought into these training sessions. The reality is that we live in a athlete development world where the loudest and most adequate sales personnel are running the industry.

The consequences of this reality is that athletes are getting overtrained and injured. Even more unfortunate is that once these athletes get injured and are labelled “not tough enough,” they are tossed to the wayside and replaced with another individual who will have a likely chance of suffering the same fate.

At Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College we are doing our best to change the dynamics of the industry. We have two very qualified, scientifically based strength & conditioning coach’s who approach athletic development very methodically. As the coordinator, I am very confident that when I send our strength & conditioning coaches to any athlete or team that the athletes will stay healthy and get nothing but the best.

Cory Coehoorn is the coordinator of the Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College. He would love to chat with you and answer any questions that you may have regarding their programs and services. He can be reached via email at ccoehoorn@mhc.ab.ca or via phone at 403-504-3547.

Injury Proofing Young Athletes

One of the primary functions of the Strength and Conditioning coach is to build an armour on our trainees. By identifying, improving, and sometimes eliminating faulty movements that predispose athletes to injury we can have a lifelong impact on their athleticism and overall health.

Sport has inherent risks, we will never eliminate injury altogether just ask the guy who has broken his scaphoid, collarbone, 2 ribs, strained both achilles, MCL, LCL, torn an ACL, and partially torn his rotator cuff all in the pursuit of sport. But many of the common postural and movement faults of modern life amplify the risk for athletes who demand a lot of their bodies.

For example: The hunched shoulders and head forward mechanics of the cell phone age limits nerve supply and blood flow to and from the brain, inter-vertebral discs get squashed, nerves get impinged, lung capacity is decreased, and the rotator cuff tries to perform miracles from a weak imbalanced shoulder position.

Why put yourself in harms way if you can easily avoid it? Please help young athletes understand that by simply being tall through their head, neck, and shoulders in life and most definitely in training they avoid the myriad of injuries, imbalances and weakness described above.

It is truly frustrating how many times I have seen this simple fix be ignored in fact scoffed at until the pinched nerve or torn rotator cuff sidelines athletes, sometimes permanently.

Harry Hunchback: “How do I rehab this wing Ed, nationals are in 2 weeks?”

“Well Harry do you remember when you argued that sometimes you are hunched in your sport so you should lift weights that way too? That you feel silly walking around all upright? You must understand that the best rehab is to never get the injury in the first place, as it can take up to a year for tissue to fully remodel?…” I am not making this up, I have had 3 conversations just like this in the last couple years. One athlete never made it to Nationals and the other 2 did not perform to expectations and still struggle with issues related directly to their head, neck, and shoulder posture. Be tall and proud like Ed I always say.

 

Another relatively correctable movement habit that predisposes athletes to injury is walking with the toes pointing out to the side. Maybe you sprained your ankle or toe and turning the foot out takes away the pain. Maybe people you model movements after have their toes pointing out as well. Whatever the reason this foot position short circuits the natural ‘toe, foot, ankle, knee, hip’ shock absorption and force production system. It makes the hip flexors the prime mover of the whole leg, places strain on the inside of the knee, puts the ACL at risk, flattens the arch of the foot and causes abnormal bone growth on the big toe joint (bunions). Please ensure both feet are pointing the direction you’re heading, at the most allow a 10 degree out-turn. This is true in training as well; performing your squats, lunges, and other lower body moves with toes out amplifies the restrictions noted above and builds strength on that dysfunction. Don’t do it.

Laying it all on the line on the field of sport is an honourable pursuit but knowledge is power in terms of injury prevention, perhaps you won’t have to get carried off that field!

 

Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Centre’s Performance Enhancement Team and is the Fitness Coordinator at the Family Leisure Centre he can be reached via e-mail at asdc@mhc.ab.ca, or at ed1sti@medicinehat.ca

Keep Moving Efficiently

By Dustan Lang

Often times I am approached by athletes asking how they can improve their performance. They want to know how they can get faster, stronger, more flexible, or have better balance. My answer is always the same: improve the efficiency of your movement. Athletes that move efficiently are those that are able to plan and sequence their movements in a fluid and coordinated manner. The correct muscles and motor patterns are used rather than compensatory movements that lead to injury.

How does moving more efficiently improve speed, strength, flexibility and balance? Efficient movement will lengthen the soft tissue around the muscles, which improves flexibility. The muscles are also lengthened so that they are able to generate maximum power and strength. When the joints are able to move through their full range of motion, the nerves in the body are better able to help improve balance and stability. As you can see, an athlete that is able to move efficiently will not only perform better, but will also be much healthier and less prone to injury.

In order to improve the efficiency of your movement, you need to work on movement exercises that are specific to your sport. For example, the movement exercises used by a squash player will look very different than those used by a hockey player. In fact, exercises for the different positions in the same sport will look different, because they are required to move differently during the sport. The exercises performed by the hockey forward would look different than those completed by the defenceman. The exercises will mimic the exact demands required for that sport and position. If performed consistently, the body will become more efficient and comfortable, which will transition into improved performance during sport.

During training, warm up, or rehabilitation, athletes should always question whether the exercises will help them return to or excel at their sport. Ask yourself: do I perform any of these movements while I am playing? If the answer is no, then the exercises are likely not the right ones for you. Work together with a professional to get sports specific movement exercises that will improve your efficiency and decrease your risk of injury. Don’t just keep moving, keep moving efficiently.

 

From Coach to Competitor

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I always considered myself an athlete while growing up. I played AA hockey, basketball, racquet sports, and would play any other sport if asked. After high school, I stopped competing and spent a few years coaching hockey while I went to university. As I began a career in emergency services I got away from competing and coaching. It wasn’t until I went back to school for Excercise Science that I got back into coaching and it is an absolute passion of mine.

The best of both worlds, firefighting and athletics, had an opportunity to collide this August at the World Police Fire Games, in Los Angeles. The World Police Fire Games are the second largest international sporting event in the world, behind the Olympics. Over 8000 athletes from 65+ countries competed in 40+ sports. When registration opened and the sports were announced, I knew I wanted to attend and compete in CrossFit. I have been CrossFitting on and off for 3 years, primarily as a means to stay in shape and be strong for my job as a firefighter. I decided to get serious in January to train for the games and began following online programming and worked with fantastic training partners.

As the Games got closer I realized that I haven’t competed in anything for a really long time. In my 3 years of CrossFit, I have only attended 1 competition and that was with a partner. I have never excelled in individual sports because I struggle with mental preparation skills and allow myself to feel the pressures of competition. When I realized that I was starting to worry about the event, I had to take a moment and check myself. I asked myself what kind of coach would I be if I couldn’t take the advice I give my athletes on a regular basis?

With 2 months until the Games I decided to take better control of my training and coach myself how I would any athlete. First thing I did was dial in my nutrition and made sure I was fuelling myself appropriately for my training. By no means did I diet, but I got rid of things that made me feel sick and began listening to my body better. This listening to my body flowed over to training days as well. I had been dealing with some health issues and I realized the best thing I could do was train to how I felt each day instead of pushing myself on days I knew I couldn’t handle it. These things lead to me feeling significantly better with about a month to go until the competition. I then began training to peak for the Games. I looked at my volume, intensity, the types of modalities I was training and shifted my focus to specific pre-competition variables. The last 10 days before I left for the Games I cut my volume and began my “peak”.

I went into the Games feeling fresh and ready. My mental game was a bit of a wreck as I was extremely nervous, but as I have coached several athletes to do so, I downloaded some Head Space and mental prep audio files. I got to the games and was amazed with the set up and the venue. I was excited and nervous but knew I was ready. I made game plans for each workout; I had practiced them all so I knew how I wanted to attack each one. At the end of the day, I beat all my practice times and even managed to PR my Jerk. I had a blast.

It was quite the experience for me to shift to competitor mode. But I listened to my own advice and it worked. I walked away from this experience with a greater understanding of what my athletes go through, and I think this will make me a better coach.